About 40,000 union workers in the AT&T landline division have agreed to continue working this week without a contract in hopes of accelerating negotiations. The workers, who are represented by the Communication Workers of America (CWA), had authorized the union to strike if a new deal could not be worked out before their previous deal expired at midnight on April 8th. Issues of contention include everything from weekend hours to healthcare costs, but at the heart of the matter is AT&T’s desire to shed costs despite posting $4 billion in profits last year.
According to the Associated Press, both sides are looking to resolve the issue.
A spokeswoman for the union, Candice Johnson, said union representatives met with AT&T officials on Sunday after talks ended late on Saturday.
“Everyone wants to get this done soon,” Ms. Johnson said.
For now, the employees will continue to receive the same wages and benefits as before. If negotiations break down, they still have the option to call for a walkout.
One of America’s largest employers, AT&T has approximately 256,000 workers of which 55 percent are represented by unions. 120,000 AT&T workers’ contracts are set to expire this year alone. Prior to last weekend’s decision to work without a contract, the CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, another union representing AT&T wiremen, had been rallying workers while AT&T was promising fair negotiations.
As one of the largest employers in America we’re proud of the number of high-paying, middle class careers we’ve produced,” Marty Richter, an AT&T spokesman, said in an e-mail. “Our goal is to do everything in our power to protect those careers.”
The workers’ choice to work without a contract shows good faith. They can only hope AT&T will return the favor in the form of fruitful talks.